There are three new coaches next year in west coast college basketball, that have a great chance to make their programs much better. We will only know come next March, but here are the three programs to watch where the impact of a new coach has the POTENTIAL to give the programs big upgrades.
Larry Krystowiak, Utah--- The Utes have been a poor program as of late, but have a rich basketball history. With Krystowiak coming on board three players have left the program, so it appears now his job will be one of rebuilding, especially with Utah coming into the Pac-12 next season.
Montana basketball was highly successful under Krystowiak in the early 2000s, so he does know how to coach winning programs. He also is a fiery guy, with lots of energy, which can work both ways with today's modern players. My grade on this hiring is a C, it would have much more of a buzz if the job would have gone to Randy Bennett, the highly successful St. Mary's coach, but that is water under the bridge now.
Since there are really no great expectations for the Utes next year in basketball, perhaps they will surprise a few people and do really well. It will be fun to watch what happens with this program.
Jim Les, U.C, Davis---- This was one of the most under the radar hires in all of college basketball. Actually, many people said, who the heck is Jim Les? Les had an above average career at Bradley before being fired at the end of last season. He knows the Sacramento/Davis area well, being an ex-King player and his son will be playing for him this year.
I have often thought Davis is a sleeping giant as a basketball school, but they have always made bad coaching hires. It is a school with great academics, it has nice facilities and the Sacramento/Davis area has many fans who know the game of basketball and will support a winner. Playing in the Big West will not hurt as well for Les, it is a league where you can always move up quickly with a talented team. I would give this move a B-plus.
Jim Hayford, Eastern Washington--- Not a school with a rich basketball history, but a school which has potential. Hayford was more than successful for the last 10 years at D-3, Whitworth, in Spokane. Can he carry over a highly successful program to the D-1 level. The transition is not always easy, especially when it comes to recruiting, but a winner is a winner, no matter what level.
Eastern won the FCS football championship this past year and history says a championship in one sports often rejuvenates an entire athletic department. The Big Sky is not the best D-1 basketball league in the country, far from it, but it is always competitive and always brings some surprises. I would rate the hiring of Hayford, a B.
In basketball it is always fun to watch new coaches. Sometimes the first year tells lots, other times it means nothing. In this day of money drives everything, patience has gone out the window, so each of the above need to start their programs in the right direction, much quicker than we use to see. GOOD LUCK.
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